Does my skin type affect laser tattoo removal?

We often get asked about laser tattoo removal and how effective the treatments might be.? In general tattoo removal using high quality, surgical grade lasers is a safe and highly effective way to remove any type of coloured or black tattoo.? However, there are some factors that can affect the overall progress of the tattoo removal; one important one being skin tones.? Your skin type, as rated on what?s called the Fitzpatrick scale, may determine the outcome of the tattoo removal treatment, as well as the process the technician may follow during your sessions.

Laser treatment can change the pigmentation of the skin once the sessions are finished, and as a general rule, those with a fairer skin tone will have a slightly better tattoo removal result because their skin will develop less changes.? Of course this does not mean that those with a darker skin tone will have issues after their treatment or their tattoo removal will be less successful.? It simply means that the technician will need to tailor the process to adapt to their skin pigmentation and the type of tattoo they may have.

If you have any questions or concerns about your laser removal treatment, contact us and we?ll be able to help.

what is the fitzpatrick scale?

The Fitzpatrick scale was developed in the 70?s by Thomas B. Fitzpatrick MD of Harvard Medical School.? He was a dermatologist who wanted a more accurate way to assess skin colour and the way it may react under certain circumstances including under exposure to light.? Over time the scale has been improved to reflect the changing nature of skin types in the population.? It is still widely used today as a useful tool, especially within the tattoo removal industry and for determining the type and frequency of skin cancers and general sun damage.

At its heart, the scale is essentially a classification system that looks at the amount of melatonin in the skin, which is derived from two different elements ? the reaction of the skin under sun exposure, and genetic makeup (or how dark or light the features are).? The scale goes from I to VI:


  • Skin type I indicates very fair white skin, with red or blond hair, light-coloured eyes and possibly freckles. These people tend not to tan, but burn, and they have a high risk for skin cancer.
  • Skin type II means people with fair white skin with light eyes and hair, who burn easily but can also tan.
  • Skin type III is considered the most common skin type, and includes people with fair white skin, with any type of eye or hair colour. They gradually tan over time and occasionally can get burnt.
  • Skin type IV are people with olive skin or what?s called ?Mediterranean Caucasian? skin, generally with dark hair colour and medium to heavy pigmentation. They gradually tan over time and rarely burn.
  • Skin type V indicates people with brown ?Middle Eastern? skin, with dark hair and eyes and who tans.
  • Skin type VI means people with black skin who are rarely sensitive to the sun and who tan easily.

The Fitzpatrick scale can determine the skin?s reaction to sun exposure, but it can also be an indication of how well someone?s skin will react to the laser removal process.? This is because the high-tech lasers used in the treatments are light waves, directed at the surface of the skin in rapid bursts (which are measured in nanoseconds).? The light waves act as a shockwave, breaking up any particles of ink on the skin, and allowing them to break up small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream.? While the light waves do not burn the skin, they can cause changes to the natural pigmentation which can take a few months to go away once the treatment session are completed.


For example, fair or light skin types may experience less pigmentation changes once their laser treatments are completed.? People with darker skin as ranked on the Fitzgerald scale have the possibility of experiencing pigmentation changes with even potential scarring in some extreme cases.? If you combine dark skin with a tattoo that has a colour such as red in it (a more difficult colour to remove from the skin), and you may find that there is hypopigmentation where the laser actually removes the natural melatonin, leaving pale or white patches.? While these generally go back to normal over a 6 to 12 month time frame, they can be permanent.

is the tattoo removal process the same for light and dark skinned people?

While the overall removal process for tattoos for light and dark skin people is the same, there will be some differences in how the laser technician will deal with the tattoo in question.? As mentioned above the increased challenges with people with tattoos with darker skin will mean that a skin patch test might be necessary before the main treatment begins.? This will give us a good indication of the way the skin will react after a number of treatment sessions.


Another difference will be that people with paler skin may be able to be treated with a more powerful laser, such as those usually used for removing tattoos with red or orange colouring.? Because the laser energy (also known as ?fluence?) is higher, a good result may take less sessions than normal.? To avoid unwanted discolouration, we will use a laser with a lower fluence for darker skinned people, and carefully monitor the results at every step to ensure there are no adverse pigmentation changes.? Obviously the whole laser treatment process may take longer as the light waves will take more sessions to remove the tattoo entirely.

Talk to the tattoo removal professionals

The best thing to do if you are considering laser tattoo removal treatment is to come in and talk to one of our experts on the process and its suitability for you.? Having tattoo removed by laser is a safe and effective form of treatment, however the results can vary depending on a number of factors such as skin tone, the type of tattoo it is and its location on the body.? If necessary, we can conduct a preliminary skin patch test to determine the sensitivity of your skin to the laser treatment and to check for any likely pigmentation changes.? Our number one aim is making your treatments as effective as possible, with minimal hassle or adverse reactions for you, so we?ll take the time necessary to make you as comfortable as you to be with the process.

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